PTICHYE MOLOKO, A RUSSIAN DESSERT

Have you heard of it? In plain English it means Bird’s Milk, a very traditional Russian delicacy, also common in Ukraine and Romania. The name originates from Greek, bird’s milk implying a delicacy very hard to obtain, a rare pleasure. My encounter with this dessert deserves further explanation.

I’ve been seriously bitten by the dangerous Silikomart bug. Silikomart is an Italian company specialized in silicone molds for cakes, mousses, chocolates, anything your mind dreams, they might just make it. They can be pricey, but I found out that ebay is a delightful source to make this type of obsession even harder to control. Oh, well. The bottom line is that somehow I found myself with a couple of amazing molds and not that many recipes adapted for them. A cart-before-the-horse situation. I put google to work and next thing I knew, I stumbled upon a blog that blew my little mind away. The blog is written in Russian and… wait for it… Portuguese!  I know, it was fate. The food blogger behind it, Ekaterina, is a fantastic professional patissière who trained with top chefs in Russia.  I still have a hard time believing that I found one of the best desserts blogs out there, and she writes it in my native language. Reading her blog (Verdade de Sabor) became my routine late at night, indulging in her gorgeous dessert posts before falling asleep. That’s how I became acquainted with Bird’s Milk. A cookie base. A milk souffle-ish on top. A thin chocolate layer wrapping it all.  And a big smile when you bring it to the table!

BIRD’S MILK (PTICHYE MOLOKO)
(very slightly modified from Verdade de Sabor)

for the cookie base:
80 g of softened butter
65 g powdered sugar
5 g sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
90 g all purpose-flour
10 g almond flour
1/4 c. of baking powder

for the milk filling:
100 g of egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
180 g sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
160 g water (divided in 60 and 100 g)
20 g gelatin powder
100 g of softened butter
100 g condensed milk

Chocolate cover:
400 g of chocolate 50-55%
100 g of oil (I used grapeseed)

Make the cookie base. Heat the oven to 350 F.  In a bowl beat the butter and the powdered sugar and the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one by one, constantly beating. In another bowl sift the flour and baking powder and add to the previous mixture. Finally, add the almond flour. Stir very well. The dough does not get too thick or too liquid, the texture must be creamy.

Spread the dough as a square, about 1/8 inch thick, smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 15 minutes (depending on the oven) or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Then, cut circles just slightly smaller than the diameter of your silicone mold. You can also make the dessert as a single rectangle or square, using a ring to assemble it. Your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Make the milk souffle:  Hydrate the gelatin in 60 mL ice water. Then melt in a water bath (I placed it in the microwave for bursts of  seconds, watching it very carefully). Reserve. In a bowl, beat the butter well with the condensed milk until you get a fluffy cream. Reserve.

Add the sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan, pour 100 mL cold water. Put a culinary thermometer in the mixture and bring to medium heat. Meanwhile, in the mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. When the syrup boils, add the cream of tartar. When the syrup reaches 240 F (116 ° C), remove from the heat, and add the hot syrup to the egg whites gradually. Continue beating the meringue for a few more minutes or until it forms firm peaks. Then slowly add the melted gelatin, and continue to beat. Reduce the speed of the mixer to the minimum and gradually add the cream of butter and condensed milk.

Pour the souffle into the silicone molds (I made 6 individual serving ones, but had leftover filling that I added to a smaller mold and saved in the freezer for later).  Place a cookie on top, and press it slightly into the mousse, but do not sink it in. Cover with plastic film and freeze. You can do that a couple of days in advance.

Make the chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate in a water bath or in the microwave. Add oil and stir well. Allow to cool at room temperature to 86 to 93 F (30-34 ° C). That is really pretty cold, below body temperature. You can also make that the day before and warm it up gently, without stirring with a whisk, as you don’t want bubbles to form.

Unmold the domes and cover with the glazing. Decorate with tempered chocolate if you desire. I used white chocolate drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used this mold for assembly of our dessert. It is not a Silikomart, but I like the quality and they are quite a bit cheaper.  In Ekaterina’s blog, she used a different mold, in the “buche de Noel” shape, but you can assemble this dessert in a square format too. Whatever you do, the cookie base must be cut slightly smaller because the goal is to cover the dessert with chocolate and hide the base.  Alternatively, you could cut it exactly the same size, coat the frozen milky filling with chocolate, let it set and then place it over the naked cookie. But it would have a totally different look. I like the way she did it, so that the cookie becomes a nice crunchy surprise as you cut into the dessert.

To un-mold the domes, I advise you to get a hairdryer and heat the surface of the dome just for a few seconds – that releases them very nicely, as you can see below.  In fact, it’s amazing how often a hairdryer can come in handy when making more elaborate desserts. I rarely dry my hair, so it now lives in the kitchen… Go figure!

See the difference? I am so glad I thought about the hairdryer trick after un-molding the first one. In this type of dessert, any boo-boo makes the final product suffer. The trickiest part of the dessert is in fact the last one, the coating with the chocolate. It must be cold enough that it will settle right away instead of sliding down and not coating the surface. But that means you’ll have ONE SHOT at getting it right. I advise you to look at youtube videos to see how the pros do it, then cross your fingers and try it yourself.  Keep in mind that you won’t be able to fix the surface with an offset spatula, or go at it again a second time. Both options will result in a wavy, not-attractive coating. I opted for a drizzle of white chocolate in the end not only because of the contrast of color, but to hide some of the imperfections I left as I poured the chocolate over the dome. What can I say? I am still learning and making mistakes in the process… Speaking of the drizzle (and mistakes), my virtual teacher Gary gave me a nice tip to make them better. Go passed the dome as the chocolate drizzle falls on it, so that you get a straight line all the way across. It will be more elegant that way. Lesson (hopefully) learned.

The dessert is truly delicious and worth the effort of the preparation. In fact, it’s not that hard if you make the components in advance and take your time. You can definitely make the filling a couple of days earlier, bake the cookie in the morning, and assemble it all before a dinner party. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours, and remove to room temperature about 15 minutes before you want to enjoy it. Then you’ll have a perfect texture in the filling.

I know that her blog being written in Russian and Portuguese makes it a bit hard to fully enjoy it, but I urge you to go there and marvel at her posts. She is also a delightful person, very responsive and helpful. She reads and writes in English, so comments in English are not a problem.

ONE YEAR AGO: Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini Tarts

TWO YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

THREE YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

FOUR YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

FIVE YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

SIX YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

NINE YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

 

 

GREEN OLIVE SALAD

Sometimes you see a recipe and you just know it will please you. I’ve blogged about a similar version years ago, but this one is more substantial and even if you are a celery hater, you might enjoy it. My little tip: peel the celery before slicing it. It’s not that hard, just pull the strings that sit on top of the ridges, they come off easily and that unpleasant (for some) texture of stringy celery will be history.  Another twist that makes this salad special is adding the Parmigiano cheese in small chunks. Use a fork and go at it. I found this recipe over at Cookie & Kate’s blog, and made it almost on that same day.  They added garlic, I did not. Other than that, no changes.

GREEN OLIVE SALAD WITH ALMONDS, CELERY, AND PARMIGIANO
(from Cookie & Kate)

2 cups large pitted green olives, drained and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup sliced celery (from 2 to 3 medium ribs)
½ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
2 ounces Parmigiano cheese, crumbled with a fork or knife point
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I added one extra tablespoon before serving)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
Leaves from celery ribs, roughly chopped, for garnish

In a medium bowl, toss all of the ingredients except the celery leaves together. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your preference.

Garnish with the chopped celery leaves. Refrigerate until needed. Leftovers are even better after a couple of days in the fridge. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This concoction not only works well as a side-dish for many types of protein, but you could slice some sourdough or simple baguette and use it as a topping, serving as appetizer before a dinner party, for instance. The flavors get more intense in a couple of days, and the almonds mellow down in texture a bit. Amazing what braces can do, I now have to worry (a lot) about texture. In fact, if you are cooking for someone wearing braces, opt for slivered almonds. They are a bit more “predictable” in terms of their crunch. When you chop whole almonds coarsely, some bits end up with incredibly sharp edges. Of course, I am aware that 99.99% of my readers don’t have to worry about it. Still, it doesn’t hurt to mention. Just in case. When I make this salad again, slivered almond will be playing…  Side note, I am almost reaching the 6 month mark of braces on a 2 year voyage, and I am so ready to be done (sigh).

ONE YEAR AGO: Coffee Macarons Dressed up to Party

TWO YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado!   

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SIX  YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

NINE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

 

PARISIAN FLAN AND COOKBOOK REVIEW: TASTING PARIS

After so many years of blogging, I tend to quickly group food bloggers into two categories, those who have been doing it longer than me, and those who are “younger” (for lack of a better term). Clotilde is part of the first group, in fact Chocolate and Zucchini was one of the first food blogs I started to follow years and years ago. Not only she is still actively blogging, but she has written several cookbooks (I own them all, in case you are wondering), and – wait for it –  writes the blog in two languages, English and French. I tried to do that when I started, writing each post in English and Portuguese, but after a few months, I gave up. It is a lot of extra work, so I truly admire her for doing it. This is a long overdue post. I had Clotilde’s newest book pre-ordered, the moment I got it in the mail I asked her permission to publish a recipe. She is the most gracious person ever, quickly answered with an enthusiastic “bien sûr”, but it took me a couple of months to finally share it with you. In part because I had a pretty tough time deciding which recipe to feature.  But I am very happy with my choice, it is a real classic…

PARISIAN FLAN
(published with permission from Clotilde’s Tasting Paris)

for pastry dough:
7 ounces (200 g) all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
Ice-cold water, if needed

for filling:
2½ cups (600 ml) whole milk
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
⅔ cup (70 g) cornstarch
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
⅔ cup (160 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing tart pan

Make the crust, preferably the day before. Prepare the filling 5 to 8 hours before serving.

For the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Process for 10 seconds, until you get a bread crumb–like consistency. Add the egg and process for a few more seconds, until the dough comes together into a ball. If the dough seems a little dry, mix in a little ice-cold water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough does come together.

Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Using a rolling-pin and working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out and transfer to a greased 10 inch round tart or quiche pan, pressing it up the sides to adhere. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze until needed.

Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and 6 tablespoons (75 g) of the sugar and bring to a simmer. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cream and the simmering milk, little by little. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking as the custard thickens, about 4 minutes. It is ready when the whisk leaves clear traces, and will continue to thicken as it cools.Pour the custard into a baking dish or other large vessel, cover, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Whisk the custard to break it up, pour into the frozen tart shell, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450°F (230°C) and bake another 10 minutes, watching closely, until the top of the flan has dark brown spots. If you find the exposed sides of the crust are browning too quickly, drape loosely with strips of foil. Cool the flan for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 1½ hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I really liked the way this tart is prepared, freezing the crust and adding the custard to it still frozen. It baked very nicely, absolutely no soggy bottom, perfect texture. I did not have to protect the edge with foil, but watched it closely as a hawk in the final minutes, those brown spot start to show up pretty quickly.

The flavor and texture improve a lot once you bring the tart to room temperature, but it is mandatory to cool it in the fridge for a few hours after baking. Just plan your schedule and you won’t have problems. I made the crust on a Saturday evening, made the filling next morning, and baked it mid-afternoon.

This flan really brought me memories of Paris. I cannot say it was something I enjoyed often while living there, but because every boulangerie proudly sells them, just the image was enough to transport me back. Creamy, sweet but not cloyingly so. A perfect dose of indulgence.

Now let me take you through Clotilde’s book for a virtual tour.

What I love the most about Clotilde’s book is how it covers not just your typical French cuisine, but the many flavors that surround people living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. During times  in which prejudice, racism, general anti-foreign feelings are getting way too common – worse than that – way too accepted as the new normal, it is nice to see a book that embraces differences, that shows that if you live in Paris, one cool thing to do is to walk all the way to Faubourg-St Denis arrondisement, and dig into a juicy Lahmajoun. I had never heard of it, even though I did enjoy many of the “exotic” delicacies found in often small, almost hidden places in the city.  Food joins cultures, and in her book Clotilde does exactly that. I cannot praise it enough.

The book is organized in a pretty cute way. Chapters are linked to times of the day: Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Early Evening, Evening, Late Night.  How cool is that? Let me offer you my favorites of each chapter.

Morning (Le Matin)

Poached Eggs with Bread Crumbs and Pickled Onions... it makes the humble poached egg perfect. Bread crumbs for texture, the sharp bite of pickled onions (probably the only way I truly enjoy them, apart from slowly caramelized).

Chocolate Bread... I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.

Fruit Compote with Yogurt... I tell you, the French know how to pull this one like nobody’s business. I definitely intend to make it for a post-exercise treat, as I don’t eat breakfast.

Moroccan Crumpets... My heart missed a beat. That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you she embraces the many cultures around town. Crumpets, so British, and all of a sudden she introduces you a version that screams Middle East. They look gorgeous, and I cannot wait to make them.

Also in this chapter you’ll have recipes for Croissants, Deviled Avocados, and many more.

Noon (Le Midi)

That’s a chapter I would love to cook everything from, but one recipe that intrigued me is the very first one… Potato Chip and Chive Omelette…  Clotilde got her inspiration from a Michelin-starred restaurant, if you can believe it, and I bet it is amazing, the texture of a potato chip adding a lot to the humble omelette. What a clever idea!

Frisée with Bacon and Egg… I’ve had this so many times in Paris, it’s filling and light at the same time. Love it.

Croque Madame, another super classic, you simply cannot go to Paris and not have one.

Turkish Lamb Flatbreads… These are the Lahmajoun I mentioned in the beginning.  A flat bread made with yogurt in the dough, a bit like a naan, and topped with well-seasoned ground lamb. Seriously good, I am sure.

Buckwheat Crepes... These have been on my list to make for a long, long time. Not surprised she included them, they are sold everywhere in Paris, not only in bistrots, but also as street food.

Carrot Chickpea Crepes… a departure on the crepe subject, another Middle Eastern twist on a classic. I almost picked this one to feature in the blog, but the Parisian Flan won me over.

Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Mille-Feuille, and Floating Islands with Caramel and Strawberries are three desserts from this chapter that made me dream.

Afternoon (L’Après Midi)

With this chapter, Clotilde explains the famous “Le Goûter“, that time in the end of the afternoon in which your light lunch has been used up, and dinner is still a bit far away. Keep in mind that in France no one has dinner before 8 or 9pm. Le Goûter is a small offering of goodies to keep you going, or to give the kids when they arrive from school. Fifteen recipes total in this chapter, including the Parisian Flan I featured.

 

Here is my shortlist of favorites:

Earl Grey Madeleines... Nantais Cake (a very moist almond cake)… Chocolate Ice Cream with Nuts and RaisinsChestnut Cream Meringue (this looks absolutely spectacular)… Simple Chocolate Macarons (nothing like finding my obsession waiting for me)… But I guess my all time favorite would be Salted Caramel Flaky Pie. It is so tempting I must show you a picture from the book…

Don’t you feel like going to the kitchen and making it right now?

Early Evening (L’Apéro)

Another French habit is to have a drink and light food before going out for dinner, a show, or a movie. In this chapter, Clotilde offers 11 recipes, including a few drinks.  Some of my favorites:

Armenian Byoreks…   Armenian food is found mostly in the 9th arrondisement of the city, the original neighborhood that received the first immigrants back in the 1915’s. Byoreks are delicious parcels of flaky dough, usually shaped as triangles, and filled with many different types of delicacies, from meat to veggies or cheese. Her version uses spinach, cheese, and pastrami.

Butternut Kibbeh with Spinach…  I adore kibbeh, and normally have a meat-loaded version (I have one in the blog from years ago), but this one is definitely calling my name. So unusual!

Oven-Puffed Pancake... Baked Camembert with Honey and Apple Cider... Olive and Goat Cheese Quick Bread... The quick bread brought me memories of a couple of friends we visited often for dinner. She always prepared one of these quick breads as an appetizer if we were having dinner with them or perhaps going out for a meal somewhere. You know, just as a warm up to the evening.  I actually blogged about one version with zucchini in the distant past.

Evening (Le Soir)

What could be more magical than spending a romantic evening in Paris? Tough question. In this chapter, Clotilde talks about special recipes that you can cook at home but will have the aura of a fancy restaurant.  I could happily cook (and eat) every single one, but here is my selected list:

Roasted Squash Soup with Curried Cheese Quenelle…  Quenelle makes any meal feel special. Just a simple technique to shape it is all you need, and Clotilde explains how to do it.

Rice and Ginger Soup... when simplicity meets elegance, I so want to make this one when the weather cools off (well, hopefully not anytime soon!)

Cauliflower Brioche. You have no idea how cool that looks. Get the book, then we can talk more about it (wink, wink)

Tfaya Chicken Couscous… have you heard of tfaya? It is a condiment made with caramelized onions and raisins, in this case used to perfume couscous. O.M.G.

Spice-Crusted Duck Maigret… how could she not include a duck dish, right? So Parisian…

Mushroom Bourguignon… a vegetarian take on one great classic French dish. Must make it!

Every single dish in this chapter seems fit for a special dinner, either for a romantic evening with just you and your favorite human, or a couple of very dear friends. Some sweets included are the classic Pears Poached in Spiced Red Wine,  Caramelized Arlette Cookies (a version of them was a technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off years ago), and the recipe from the book’s cover: Ice Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce (no additional remarks needed).

Late Night (Tard dans la Nuit)

One recipe in the chapter. French Onion Soup. I don’t even know how many times I’ve enjoyed it with the most perfectly broiled Gruyere cheese on top of a perfect crusty slice of bread, cut in the exact thickness to make it stand against the hot soup without dissolving into nothingness. Au Pied du Cochon is a restaurant that still serves this soup pretty much the whole night. I’ve had the experience once. Yes,  Tasting Paris brought me a ton of fond memories indeed!

Clotilde, thank you for allowing me to share the flan recipe in my blog… 

For those interested in the book, it’s available in amazon.com. I am not affiliated, and won’t get a single penny from your purchase. I only recommend books I fall in love with, and this was definitely one…

ONE YEAR AGO: Beef Goulash, Slow-Cooker Version

TWO YEARS AGO: Post-workout Chia Yogurt Bliss

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

NINE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

 

 

HICKORY-SMOKED BEEF TENDERLOIN

This could very well go into the Incredibly Simple files, but since it requires an electric smoker, I guess it would not be quite appropriate. When we think about smoking stuff (not talking cigarettes of any kind here), the mind gravitates towards pork ribs, briskets, perhaps salmon. But Phil wondered if cuts such as a T-bone steak or a tenderloin could also work. There are some recipes out there, for the most part they call for rubs or marinades that in my opinion don’t do anything for the meat. So we browsed around discussion forums and found what we were looking for: meat lovers raving about their smoked ribeyes, tenderloins, T-bones. And what’s even better, they were prepared like a Brazilian would: salt, pepper, and love.

HICKORY-SMOKED BEEF TENDERLOIN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 beef tenderloin filets, 8 ounces each
(you can do the same for a 12 ounce T-bone steak)
salt
pepper
a few chunks of hickory smoking chips

Set your smoker to 175 F.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.  When the smoker reaches the proper temperature, place the steaks inside and smoke for 50 minutes.

Heat your grill or a cast iron pan to the holy-smokes-this-is-blazing-hot stage.

When the meat is done smoking, sear it on the grill or cast iron pan (if using cast iron coat it very slightly with olive oil). Just a couple of minutes per side will do.

Rest the meat for 10 minutes. Slice and enjoy it. You definitely will.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: We smoked one tenderloin filet and two T-bone steaks using exactly the same timing and temperature. The texture of the meat was quite similar to sous-vide, which pleasantly surprised us. Definitely the lower temperature does wonders for texture, and the smoked flavor turns it into something special. It is much more subtle than adding a sauce to your steak (which Brazilians find borderline heretic). Next time we will use either orange or apple wood to see how the flavor compares. Hickory is pretty assertive.

If you are a bit insecure about cooking the meat without checking the temperature, you can always insert a probe thermometer and take it to 135 F for medium-rare. The Man was in charge of the smoker, and he is pretty good at judging doneness by pressing the surface of the meat with his finger. It always turns out perfect for us.

After inhaling the whole T-bone steak (ok, he did leave the bone behind after chewing on it like Bogey QT would), Phil said it was one of the best he’s ever had. That man knows about steak, trust me, so that is a huge endorsement.  I could not finish my tenderloin, but in part it was because I always have that possibility of a perfect leftover lunch waving at me. But if it wasn’t for that, I would have matched my beloved’s performance. Except for the chewing of the bone. Or the corn on the cob. Because… braces (sigh).

We’ve had the smoker since December last year, and I can tell you we are very happy with the acquisition. I cannot imagine salmon prepared any other way, and it’s quite likely that T-bone steaks and maybe even beef tenderloin will be following the same route…

ONE YEAR AGO: Spaghetti Squash, Revisited

TWO YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken and Cabbage in Spicy Almond Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Fifteen Years!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Light Brioche Burger Buns

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Blues

SIX  YEARS AGO: Headed to Hawaii

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Hidden Treasure

NINE YEARS AGO: Avocado Three Ways

BLUEBERRY AND MANGO CURD MACARONS

No, not together in the same filling. I am sharing two different takes on my favorite cookie. Curd can be a tricky filling for macarons because anything with moisture is a killer, so normally a buttercream or ganache-based preparation is the best option. But, if you intend to consume them within a day, maximum two, give curd a try. It has the best sharp, acidic flavor to stand against the sweetness of the shells. Since every batch I bake is shared with our departmental colleagues and more often than not they are inhaled within 3 hours of arrival… I never have to worry too much about the issue. The blueberry version is a pure curd, the mango was “tamed” with a bit of white chocolate ganache. They were both delicious, but I must say I haven’t quite hit the mango flavor with the intensity I want. I need more cowbell on that (Saturday Night Live lovers, anyone?).

Blueberry Macs first, scroll down for the Mango version.

BLUEBERRY CURD MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
see this post
use just a little vanilla to flavor the shells and add purple food color

for the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon water
zest of half a lime
2 large eggs, beaten slightly

Make the shells and bake them as described in the link.

Make the filling: Place the blueberries and lime zest in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon water and cook gently, mixing occasionally until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.  Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, and place inside a glass bowl that will fit over a saucepan with a small amount of simmering water. Add the butter and sugar and cook until the sugar is fully dissolved and the butter is melted.

Add the eggs and continue to stir over gently simmering water until the curd thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon, and reach about 170 F.  The process can take a while, but I like to start it on the stove and if the temperature gets stuck in a certain level, I place the bowl in the microwave and give it a couple of 20 second bursts to make sure it is heated to 170 F. It is imperative to use a thermometer, so that you don’t risk going over the temperature goal.  You can always just baby-sit the curd on the stove full-time. Once it’s done, strain the curd, and let it cool completely before using it to fill the macaron shells.

Macarons are best enjoyed after 24 hours in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I cannot believe how beautiful the blueberry curd turned out. What amazing color! If you like tart-and-sweet stuff, you’ll fall in love with it. When I make the shells I always marry them to get as closely in size as possible (my piping is never too consistent, I’m afraid), then I open them side by side and add the filling to one of the partners. The decoration was very simple, a drizzle of candy melts white. Yes, I took a shortcut instead of tempering white chocolate, because when I made these, I was having quite a few issues with tempering chocolate. Since the drizzle is a minor component of the cookie, I decided that in the name of my mental sanity, I would use it. A sprinkle of decorating purple and pink sugar crystals closed the deal.  It is hard for me to pick a favorite macaron, but this version was very very tasty.

MANGO CURD MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
see this post
use just a little vanilla to flavor the shells
Separate a small amount of batter ( about 1/3 cup) and add green food color to it.
Add yellow color to the rest of the batter.

for the filling:
mango curd (you won’t need the full amount)
1 cup pureed mango flesh
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
white chocolate ganache:
115 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
35 g heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter

To decorate the shells with the heart-shaped swirls, place the small amount of green macaron batter inside a piping bag. No need to use a tip, you can cut a small opening so that it will release small drops.  Pipe the shells with the batter tinted yellow. Right after piping, drop three  dots of green batter on the edge of the shells, and run a line through them with a toothpick or a metal gadget for cookie design. Let the shells dry to form a skin and bake as you would normally do (see the link included).

Make the filling: Whisk the mango pulp, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and salt in a bowl.  Whisk in the egg yolks. Place in a double boiler with water simmering underneath. Cook stirring gently until thickened, it should take only about 5 minutes due to the cornstarch. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until incorporated.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 4 hours.

Make a white chocolate ganache by placing the chocolate in a bowl and pouring over it the heavy cream heated to almost boiling (bubbles forming at the edges of the pan). Let it sit for a few minutes, swirl gently to dissolve the chocolate, add the butter and mix. Let it cool to room temperature, then add to it 1/3 of a cup of the mango curd. Mix well and refrigerate for several hours before filling the shells. If desired, you can whip the mixture before doing so.

Macarons are best enjoyed after 24 hours in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You will notice that I had two different types of decoration in these macarons. The problem is that you need to work very fast to pipe the green batter into the shells and do the swirl. Ideally, this should be a two-persons job. Since I was doing it by myself, I quickly realized I would not be able to decorate them all before mixing one color in the other would become problematic. So, I adapted a Plan B, and used pearl dust in dark green, a little Everclear to dissolve it, and a brush with wide open bristles. The color must be dissolved in alcohol (some say lemon juice works too), but no worries if you serve the macarons to kids, the alcohol quickly evaporates without affecting the delicate shells.

Each shell, once baked and cold, gets a quick stroke of the brush dipped in the alcohol-dust mixture. No need to measure anything, the alcohol is there just to provide moisture. The more pearl dust, the darker the resulting color. Very easy and straightforward.

As to the flavor, both Phil and I felt that the mango flavor did not come through as much as we would like. I have some ideas for next time, while mangos are still around in the grocery store. If you have suggestions, please leave a comment and I’ll be very grateful. I wonder if a pure mango curd would have worked better.

Speaking of it, I got the recipe for the mango curd from FoodTV Network. I was a little puzzled by the denomination of curd when it’s thickened with cornstarch, but I decided to keep it this way, at the risk of offending some heavy-duty bakers. Gary, Jennifer, forgive me, for I have probably sinned.  I will try to behave better from now on…

ONE YEAR AGO: Michigan and Mackinac Island

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2016

THREE  YEARS AGO: Ka’kat, a Middle Eastern Snack Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spinach and Chickpea Curry

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sautéed Zucchini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

SIX YEARS AGO: Orzo with Heirloom Tomato Relish

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Rhubarb Brouhaha: Revelation Compote

NINE YEARS AGO: Love me tender…

 

 

 

BLACK OLIVE TAPENADE AND DEVILED EGGS

Tapenade-flavored deviled eggs! A great departure from the classic, this was a recent blog post by my dear friend Karen. We love deviled eggs so I was quite excited when she shared her version that included a hefty dose of black olive lusciousness to make them even more special. At first I thought we had one of those convenient ready-made jars from Trader Joe’s sitting in our pantry, but of course, the moment I had a very important use for it, they were nowhere to be found. I had to take matters into my own food processor. You know what? Home-made is infinitely better. There’s a fresh taste to it, plus I could customize it adding a bit of orange zest. Total winner!

BLACK OLIVE TAPENADE
(adapted from many sources)

1 + 1/2 cups pitted black olives
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
juice of half a lemon (taste and add more, if you like)
chopped fresh parsley to taste
olive oil to desired consistency
salt and pepper
orange zest

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor, except olive oil, salt, pepper, and orange zest. Process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle olive oil until it gets to the consistency you prefer, I added a bit less than 1/4 cup.  Season with salt, pepper, and add orange zest at the very end.

BLACK OLIVE TAPENADE DEVILED EGGS
(slightly modified from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup full-fat yogurt
1/2  tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping tablespoon (or more to taste)  olive tapenade
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish

Peel and slice the eggs in half, lengthwise. Place the yolks into a bowl and mash with a fork. 

Add the yogurt, mustard, and cayenne pepper, and mix until smooth. Add the tapenade and salt and pepper and stir until thoroughly combined. Place the yolk mixture into a piping bag and pipe into the egg white cavities. Sprinkle with paprika and chill until ready to serve. You should chill too, it’s an easy recipe, perfect for entertaining.

ENJOY!

to print the recipes, click here

Comments: Confession time. I gave you the recipes with more or less precise measurements, but I did not use a single measuring cup or spoon to make them. Because I’ve been baking so much, I get pretty tired of measuring and weighing items. When it comes to a savory recipe, I want freedom. So I pretty much eye-balled everything. And used my taste buds to judge if I needed more capers, more lemon, more parsley. I advise you to do the same, it is quite liberating (wink, wink). Yes, no two attempts will be exactly the same, but isn’t that part of the charm of cooking? Now, of course baking is another story, your goal is to reach that perfect mousse emulsion, the cake with correct structure and moisture, the macarons with the perfect mixing of almond to meringue. Precision rules.

These turned out delicious! I made a batch on a Saturday morning while The Man was playing golf and the plan was to surprise him with the platter ready and waiting. But he finished the game early, and arrived while I was piping the filling. So there you go, you got to see a picture of the process.

I like to use yogurt instead of mayo, as mayonnaise does not enter our home, but you should go the more authentic route if you prefer.

Karen, thanks for constantly inspiring me, as you know I have a huge list of recipes to try from your site, but I jumped on this one like Buck jumps on a snake in the backyard. Sorry for the image, but it’s accurate.

ONE YEAR AGO: Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Bundt Cake

THREE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Salad with Red Grapes and Avocado

FOUR YEARS AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

SIX YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

EIGHT YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

NINE YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

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WHITE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY DOME & AFTERNOON TEA REVIEW

If you want to make a dessert to impress, search no further. This one looks impossibly cute, it mixes different textures, and it comes in single portion size, which always makes a dessert more special. Made just for you! The recipe comes from a cookbook that you absolutely must have: Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea. I fell in love with it without having any idea who Mr. Lanlard was, and it turns out he is quite the celebrity chef, having done several cooking shows on TV and written a fair number of cookbooks. Born in Bretagne, he’s been living in the UK since age 22, now the owner of a wonderful place in London called Cake Boy. Maybe one day I will be able to visit and enjoy one of his beautiful concoctions. With a perfect cup of tea, of course… But without further ado, here is my version of his adorable dome-shaped dessert.

 

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY DOME
(reprinted with permission from Eric Lanlard)

100g (3½oz) white chocolate, roughly chopped
10g (¼oz) golden caster sugar (or regular sugar)
1 egg yolk
10g (¼oz) cornstarch
50ml (2fl oz) milk
1 gelatine leaf (about 2.5 g)
250ml (9fl oz) whipping cream
30 raspberries
6 thin Palets Breton (recipe follows)
8 tbsp apricot jam
pink food coloring
tempered white chocolate for decoration

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Leave to cool slightly. In a separate heatproof bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolk until pale and fluffy, then fold in the cornstarch.

Heat the milk in a saucepan, then pour over the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring continuously, until it has thickened. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in cold water until softened. Stir the custard into the melted white chocolate. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine and add to the warm chocolate mixture, then stir together until the gelatin has melted. Leave to cool.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, then fold into the cooled custard. Divide the mousse among 6 individual dome silicone molds, filling them half full. Arrange 5 raspberries over the mousse in each mold, then spoon over the remaining mousse. Place the molds in the freezer for at least 4 hours until set solid.

Melt the apricot jam in a small saucepan, then pass through a sieve until smooth. Return the glaze to the pan and stir in the food dye. Turn each mould out on to a cooling rack. Pour the glaze over the frozen domes to cover – the glaze should set within 30 seconds. Using a palette knife carefully lift each on to a Palet Breton biscuit. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

PALETS BRETON
(slightly modified from Eric Lanlard’s recipe)

2 egg yolks
85g (3oz) golden caster sugar (or regular sugar)
85g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
140g (5oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
2 generous pinches of Guérande salt

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the butter. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then add to the mixture and combine together to form a smooth dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and shape as a flat disk. Cover with plastic film and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Roll the dough about 3/8 inch thick and bake in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes. While still warm from the oven, cut disks the same size as your dome mold for the mousse.  Leave to cool completely before assembling the dessert.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am really over the moon with this dessert. It is deceptively simple to prepare, but  having made it twice, I can tell you that small details matter. If you look at the bottom right picture in the composite above, you’ll see that the raspberries are visible underneath the glaze. That happened because the berries were a little too big (hey, Kansas is not that far from Texas) and when I placed them inside the mold and filled it with mousse, some were pushed all the way to the edge. It is evident on the upper right photo. Ideally, the fruit should be totally surrounded by the white chocolate mousse. It is a small detail, but in such a lovely dessert, it is one to pay attention to next time. See? There I am again using the “next time” line. That is also the reason why I added the drizzle of white chocolate, to make the boo-boo less evident. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to try my hands at tempering white chocolate. It was quite a thrill, but one with a happy ending.

I used the seeding method, in which I melted very slowly 3/4 of diced white chocolate (to 105 F), then brought the temperature down to 80 F adding the remaining 1/4 diced bits with constant agitation (talking not only chocolate but my inner self). After that, I increased the temperature super gently with a hairdryer just to be able to drizzle and pipe the design over silpat, not allowing it to go over 85 F.

The cookie base can be whatever cookie you like. The most important thing is that the dimension match that of the domed mousse. Since some cookies shrink or change shape during baking,  I decided to roll the dough out, bake it and then cut the cookies exactly the size I needed. Worked pretty well. Sablès are sturdy but have that melt in your mouth feel of a shortbread. I had some cookies leftover, and they received a drizzle of tempered white chocolate. They turned out very good, simple and delicious. The small amount of salt in the Palets Breton’s dough is a must. Normally these cookies are pretty thick (google and you’ll see what I’m talking about), but of course to serve as a base for the dessert, it is best to bake thinner versions, they will be more delicate.

One more thing: avoid using apricot jam like Bonne Maman. Oddly enough, that delicious version does not have as much pectin as more mundane brands do, and it’s hard to get good coverage of the mousse. On my first attempt, I ended up resorting to a chocolate glaze. It was also very good, but I think I prefer the taste and color impact of the pink-red glaze.

For those interested, this is the dome mold I used. 

And now, allow me to offer you a small overview of my favorite cookbook of the moment…
Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea

The book starts with a nice introduction about paring tea with food, something most people don’t bother thinking about. But, truth is, tea covers many complex flavors and will complement, enhance, or sometimes fight with the food you serve it with. One of the interesting combinations he suggests is a Lapsang Souchong tea with anything chocolate. Lapsang Souchong is a smoked tea with quite unique flavor (and smell). I’ve seen pastry chefs making chocolate mousses infused with it, but have not tried it yet. That too, shall happen in the Bewitching Kitchen. But, back to the book. The chapters are divided into sections that cover particular types of goodies. I will list the recipes that made my heart miss a beat or three from each chapter. And by the way, let me tell you the photos are spectacular (you can tell by the cover of the book).

Macarons and Choux. How could I not fall in love with a book that opens with Macarons??? I want to make pretty much every one of the 10 recipes in the chapter, but just to share the favorites: Lemon and Pepper Macarons with Smoked Salmon, Hazelnut Macarons with Pumpkin Puree, Blue Cheese Gougères, and Mini-Salmon Mousse and Nigella Seed Paris-Brest.

Savory Tarts. Pear, Roquefort and Walnut Tartlets, Tartes Flambées, Camembert and Apple Tarts with Walnut Drizzle, Spinach and Pine Nut Wholemeal Tartlets.

Sandwiches and Scones. Very creative chapter, let me tell you… Combinations of flavors that seem quite unusual but not over the top. Vanilla-Cured Salmon on Beetroot Caraway Bread, Paprika Chicken Ciabatta, Pistachio and Rose Scones (swoon!), Raw Cacao and Raspberry Scones.

Cakes and Sweet Tarts. Pistachio and Rose Financiers (gosh, I must make these), Strawberry Ombré Cake (from the cover of the book, gorgeous cake), Chocolate and Ginger Tart (a thing of beauty), Linzer Torte.

Patisserie. My favorite chapter, that includes the some recipes I made from the book. Red Velvet Cheesecake, White Chocolate and Raspberry Domes, Lemon Posset, Saffron Crême Pâtissière, Mango, and Mint Cups, Raspberry Choux Craquelin Buns.

Biscuits. I cannot pick favorites. I want to make them all, so here they are: Viennese Butter Biscuits, Palets Breton, Cardamom BiscuitsSoft Ginger Biscuits, Honey and Lemon Biscuits, Lavender Shortbread Hearts, Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Coconut Macarons Rocher, Gluten-free Tahini Cookies, and Cinnamon Palmiers.  Are you in love yet?

Finally, a teaser for you… this is his Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake. I took it to our department and people went crazy for it. It is decadently delicious.

Get the book, bake from it. Have a cup of tea. Find your hygge

Mr. Lanlard, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe, and thanks for the advice on the raspberry dome. I look forward to baking a lot more from your gorgeous cookbook.

ONE YEAR AGO: Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Pickled Red Onions

THREE YEARS AGO: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mini-Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

NINE YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

 

 

 

 

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